Reimagining in-flight entertainment
Remember the time when you had a long flight and were stuck with a screen the size of your fist, vigorously tapping to select a movie, while also annoying the person seating in front of you? While in-flight entertainment has lots of potential, there is a reason why most system designs are in the same state we use them today.
First we would have to look at the existing hardware. For an airline to change their seat designs or layout may take years of development and approval documentation. Even if the airline introduces portable screens, in most cases you would be stuck with the same old unintuitive software with loads of pre-loaded movies, but no WiFi.
Apart from the marketing materials, it is difficult and very costly for airlines to join the technological revolution of portable screen-based devices. The easiest way to implement changes is to build an entire aircraft class from scratch, however not many airlines can afford to do that. Even with Panasonic Avionics owning at least 70% of the seat entertainment market, they do not concentrate on the usability of their systems, but rather on purchasing of licensed content like the latest movies, TV series and music.
Delta Airlines still uses the oldest eFX systems with TV channels and Radio only
Emirates IFE keep updating their old software with little change to information architecture
Turkish Airlines tabs all over the place with poor visual design guidelines
Development over design
It is more cost-effective for companies to hire and keep engineers and developers who can provide support for years than hire a design team. When the opportunity comes to redesign the whole experience, depending on the budget, airlines ideally would hire a creative team to redesign the whole system. However due to the complexity of existing hardware, developers and airlines prefer to keep it as close to existing designs as possible.
When working for Neutral Digital, I had an opportunity to develop my own in-flight entertainment interface concepts that could be used for both existing in-seat screens and portable tablets. This concept is made to be user-friendly and visually appealing to the user.
Considering that more airlines are willing to switch to portable entertainment devices, I had to keep in mind that the concept should be suitable for both existing entertainment hardware as well as all the future Android or iOS devices (tablets most likely) on board. The challenge for me was to produce a design piece that would not mimic any existing IFE systems but would be recognisable and easy to use for the existing users and compliment the information architecture of most airlines IFE systems.
One of the biggest issues of IFE is hotspot areas. This 20px grid concept allows to create larger hotspot areas which improved overall usability of the system
This concept is made within the square grid allowing to have better and more accessible touch points/hotspots. Having experience of working with IFE developers, this layout would be easy to implement with an already existing content library and can be customised for special items and promotions.
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